Does the Guinness Book of World Records have an entry for the politician fastest to apologize for Thought Crimes about ethnic issues?
I figured Sen. Trent Lott held the world championship in the apology Olympics. But now comes Rep. James Moran, who seems to have trounced even the Mississippi senator in the belly-crawl competition.
Mr. Moran’s offense, as the world now knows, was to say that American Jews have played a large role in pushing the United States into the coming war with Iraq and thereby utter what is supposed to be unutterable about Jewish power and Jewish loyalty.
Specifically, what he said at a rally of religious opponents of the war in response to a Jewish woman who wondered why more Jews were not present, was “If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this,”and “The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going, and I think they should.”
Jewish leaders in and around his own constituency at once denounced him and, despite his immediate belly flop, demanded his resignation from office, as did the Washington Post.
Meanwhile, the Republicans, sniffing blood, paddled in to take a bite of Mr. Moran’s flesh. The world’s only Jewish Republican congressman, Rep. Eric Cantor, told a meeting of 150 Orthodox Jewish leaders that what Mr. Moran said was “reminiscent of the accusations contained in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a classic anti-Semitic forgery.
Of course Mr. Moran said nothing like that—any more than the hapless Washington bureaucrat who nearly lost his job a few years ago for using the word “niggardly” said anything racially offensive. Mr. Moran’s critics either make the same kind of confusion, out of an obsession with their own persecution, or else are simply using the charge to score political points.
What Mr. Moran actually said is more or less (though perhaps not literally) true.
Only a month before the Washington Post editorial page was blathering for his resignation, its news section carried on the front page (Feb. 9) a long story by reporter Robert Kaiser on how “Bush and Sharon [are ] Nearly Identical on Mideast Policy.” It showed how mainly (but not exclusively) Jewish neo-conservatives in the Bush administration have pressed for war with Iraq and how these same people share the agenda of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s bellicose Likud party. “The Likudniks are really in charge now,” a senior government official told Mr. Kaiser. Other observers agree.
Articles in The Nation by Jason Vest, the Los Angeles Times by political scientist Chalmers Johnson, and most recently in a hard-hitting and well-researched article in The American Conservative by Pat Buchanan, among several other pieces by major journalists and scholars, have all uncovered much the same facts.
When Tim Russert of NBC’s “Meet the Press” asked his guest Richard Perle, a leading neo-con hawk who’s chairman of the Defense Policy Board in the Pentagon , “Can you assure American viewers across our country that we’re in this situation against Saddam Hussein and his removal for American security interests?” (as opposed to Israel’s), then, as the Forward, the leading Jewish newspaper in the country, remarked last month, “the toothpaste is out of the tube.”
None of this literally corroborates what Mr. Moran said about “the strong support of the Jewish community” for war with Iraq; the Bush Likudniks don’t necessarily represent all (or even very many) American Jews, but, as Michelle Goldberg noted in an article on Salon.com last fall, “mainstream Jewish groups and leaders are now among the strongest supporters of an American invasion of Baghdad.”
What Mr. Moran said was close enough to the truth not to be so ruinously “offensive” as his enemies are claiming.
And the Jewish leaders who started the stampede for Mr. Moran’s resignation aren’t mainly concerned about “anti-Semitism” anyway. What they don’t like is his voting record on Israel.
As Ronald Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Council of Washington, told the Post, the congressman’s remarks were merely “the icing on the cake. Over the past several years, Congressman Moran has expressed a hostile tendency toward Israel. It has come up in his votes and in his statements.”
Anti-Semitism is one thing, and a good reason to resign. Opposition to Israel, at least for Americans, isn’t.
If American Jewish leaders, inside or outside the Bush administration, can’t make that distinction and insist on using the charge of “anti-Semitism” simply to smear and silence all critics of Israel and our policies toward it, then there may be good reason to ask more and much harder questions about their real political and foreign policy agendas.